“For me it was an approach… an attitude, but it’s also ambiguous, the tension and balance that those two words represented is across the whole record”, says Brooke Fraser of her latest album Brutal Romantic. The New Zealander wrote her fourth album over 18 months, collecting fragments in New York, Los Angeles, Sydney, Stockholm, a garage in Maida Vale and an 18th century barn conversion on the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea. Fraser ultimately landed on the doorstep of co-producer David Kosten (Bat For Lashes, Everything Everything). The duo crafted this album in Kosten’s West London studio through the early months of 2014, venturing to the cavernous Abbey Road to record Brutal Romantic’s epic orchestral moments.
A sharper-tongued, more sonically adventurous record than its predecessors, Brutal Romantic is stronger, bolder, more steady-eyed in its demeanor. “I was doing a lot of thinking, a lot of experimenting, with how I sounded and what I wanted to say. I was looking for the contrast to what I’d released previously”. The result is a complete work of ten new tracks. Work that might be considered less polite than previous. The defiant Psychosocial was released to fans ahead of the first single Kings and Queens. A candid Fraser is unapologetic, “I kind of enjoyed the irony of people hearing that track first via social media, given it is about voyeurism and my take on modern society’s faux connectivity.”
Fraser says for all the new sharp angles and experimentation, the same preoccupation that has run through her songwriting since her teenage years – Brutal Romantic is about identity. “Identity is my default, it’s something I come back to regularly,” she explains. “There are so many songs about love and lost love, but identity sits at the root of that – our desire to belong. Kings and Queens and Bloodrush touch on that – finding yourself, the search for an anchor, the truth of who you are and how you live.”
Fraser was still a teenager in New Zealand when her music career first took flight; there were number one albums, multiplatinum sales, even tours with David Bowie. Twelve years and three albums later, she had perfected a sound that was instantly recognizable: warm, sincere, acoustic; a sound that fitted her wholesome, nice girl reputation. Today a confident and guileless Brooke Fraser is proud that Brutal Romantic feels so strongly like something new. “I made the record I wanted to make and I’m really happy with it. My job is to make songs you can put on and not feel so alone. It’s a good job”. Brutal Romantic will be released nationwide on November 18 via Vagrant Records.